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The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman

The Magicians: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Lev Grossman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,5053821,078 (3.46)1 / 356
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Viking Adult (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, read in 2012

Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

  1. 152
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw)
  2. 133
    The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (Jannes)
    Jannes: The Magicians wolud not exist if it wasn't for the Narnia books, and is really a kind of loving deconstruction of Lewis' work. What could be better than giving the books that inspired it a try?
  3. 101
    Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (catfantastic)
    catfantastic: Read the short story "The Problem of Susan" included in this collection.
  4. 137
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (sonyagreen)
    sonyagreen: It's like HP goes to college, complete with drinking and sex.
  5. 127
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Magic is real in a world we recognize--Napoleonic England and contemporary New York.
  6. 40
    The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I by Diana Wynne Jones (Anonymous user)
  7. 20
    Shadowland by Peter Straub (Scottneumann)
  8. 20
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  9. 20
    Little, Big by John Crowley (rarm)
    rarm: Fairy tale worlds that reveal a hidden darkness.
  10. 10
    Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (Scottneumann)
  11. 10
    The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits (BeckyJG)
  12. 10
    Bedtime Story by Robert J. Wiersema (ShelfMonkey)
  13. 21
    How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (lobotomy42)
    lobotomy42: Similar combination of a genre setting, an unlikeable protagonist, and an inward-looking plot.
  14. 10
    The Silver Nutmeg: The Story of Anna Lavinia and Toby by Palmer Brown (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Both describe the reflections of certain pools of water as windows onto other realities. The Silver Nutmeg, however, is much less dark and aimed at younger readers.
  15. 65
    Harry Potter Box Set (Books 1-7) by J. K. Rowling (elleeldritch)
    elleeldritch: An adult version of Harry Potter (and Narnia), albeit with a different (but still interesting) magic scheme.
  16. 65
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (marvas)
    marvas: A comparable mix of the fantastic and the all too real, proving fantasy can be an adult genre.
  17. 32
    Among Others by Jo Walton (Jannes)
    Jannes: Both are fantasy or fantasy-sih books about fantasy readers and how the stories you read hape you and affect your sense of the world.
  18. 22
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (vnovak)
  19. 11
    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (Anonymous user)
  20. 56
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling (kaledrina)
    kaledrina: Older YAs and above. Really for late teens and adults. Potter meets Narnia meet sex drugs and rock n roll.

(see all 23 recommendations)


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English (381)  Swedish (1)  All languages (382)
Showing 1-5 of 381 (next | show all)
Horrible! It was a mixture of Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis gone bad. ( )
  wirtley | Nov 18, 2014 |
Rarely do I read a book I detest so much that I wish I could go back and undo it. Were it not for a book club I enjoy participating in, I would have dropped this unfinished without regret.

Let me be clear here: this is the worst book I have read in quite some time. I am using it to calibrate my rating system.

Writing, plotting, setting, characterization, action description, all are atrocious, below the level of most fanfic. And this is fanfic, don't think differently for a moment-- Potter, Narnia, and a handful of other YA-ish fantasy boiled down to their most worthless, generic elements, then tossed in a blender with some sex and alcohol to make it "edgy" or "adult" or something. Without point or redeeming features of any kind.

I'm done writing about this. If you know me and my opinion holds any value to you, just steer clear of this. There are many, many wonderful books you should read instead, or trees that could be stared at and give you more pleasure and edification. ( )
1 vote jakecasella | Nov 7, 2014 |
I am still not completely sure how I liked this book. It was hailed as a great alternative to Harry Potter. I am not so sure I would agree with that description. I think it is more a bored teenagers' bored view of magic and the disillusionment that can come when you get what you wished for. Now - that doesn't sound very Harry Potterish.

Plus I feel truly sorry for any book compared with Harry - it just isn't going to measure up in my reading world. Harry was for all ages - The Magicians seems mostly for out of sorts teens.

Even though I was not in love with the book I could not stop reading it. I wanted to know what happened in Fillory, what happened at Brakebills, what happened to Quentin.

So the basic story is a hidden magical school in upstate NY. Quentin, a very anti-social, anti-excitement, anti-everything sort of teen gets in to his shock and hidden awe.

The book chronicles his life in Brakebills, his love for Alice and his ongoing escape into the fictional world of Fillory. So - Fillory is a book that he loved as a kid and keeps returning to as if that is the seat of all magic. Every magical moment seems to be compared and found lacking to Fillory.

So I thought his schooling would build to a big ah ha moment - but it built to a creepy secret graduation ceremony that included personalized demons and secret codes from the head of the school. And the book continued.

So - what does a graduated magician do in the real world - absolutely anything they want and you can imagine the problems that causes.

Then there is a quest - sort of - and a horrible battle - way gruesome - there are deaths and there are survivors.

But - this book lacked the undertone of good vs. evil. This was just magic for magic sake and the questions that Quentin and his friends bantied around were the meaninglessness of magic in a world where there was no need. I found it all rather depressing and anti fun. That is what magic brought in other stories - fun. I know there is often a down side - but there was joy and positive energy. That does not exist for the Magicians.

The end was a bit of a shock to my system. Not what I expected. But - it did make me want to pick of the next book and start reading. So even though this was not my favorite - I have hope for Quentin!! ( )
  kebets | Nov 1, 2014 |
I liked it, loved it, and then was disappointed with the ending. I can't say it was poor writing, but I just got so angry about one of the characters he killed off. Irrational perhaps, but there you have it. ( )
  borbet | Oct 21, 2014 |
Two stars only because the writing in itself was decent, if not mind-blowing.

What. A. Fucking. Mess.

Really, that was pretty awful. Quentin is horrendous. Alice is a non-character and has a complete personality reversal about midway through the book. Eliot is... what the fuck is Eliot supposed to be? This author vacillates between ripping off plot ideas from other books (for the first 200 pages I could buy that it was more of a pastiche or a sort of loving nod, but it quickly veered into total running-out-of-ideas-so-I'll-borrow-some territory) and just skipping large periods of time because he's not sure what to do. The plot was just plain ridiculous, boring, and non-existent and I'm not even sure how that's possible. And don't even get me STARTED on the characterisation. These people seem to exist for the purposes of the (non-)plot and have no real qualities inherent to themselves. Apart from Alice, until the Fillory incident. SIGH. The first 200 pages were easily worth 3.5 stars, maybe even four and then it all falls apart so spectacularly that I almost ended up hating it completely. ( )
1 vote humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 381 (next | show all)
This isn't just an exercise in exploring what we love about fantasy and the lies we tell ourselves about it -- it's a shit-kicking, gripping, tightly plotted novel that makes you want to take the afternoon off work to finish it.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Oct 20, 2009)
It’s the original magic — storytelling — that occasionally trips Grossman up. Though the plot turns new tricks by the chapter, the characters have a fixed, “Not Another Teen Movie” quality. There’s the punk, the aesthete, the party girl, the fat slacker, the soon-to-be-hot nerd, the shy, angry, yet inexplicably irresistible narrator. Believable characters form the foundation for flights of fantasy. Before Grossman can make us care about, say, the multiverse, we need to intuit more about Quentin’s interior universe.
Somewhat familiar, albeit entertaining... Grossman's writing is intelligent, but don't give this one to the kids—it's a dark tale that suggests our childhood fantasies are no fun after all.
added by Shortride | editPeople, Sue Corbett (Aug 31, 2009)
Grossman has written both an adult coming-of-age tale—rife with vivid scenes of sex, drugs, and heartbreak—and a whimsical yarn about forest creatures. The subjects aren’t mutually exclusive, and yet when stirred together so haphazardly, the effect is jarring. More damaging still is the plot, which takes about 150 pages to gain any steam, surges dramatically in the book’s final third, and then peters out with a couple chapters left to go.
added by Shortride | editBookforum, Michael Shaer (Aug 14, 2009)
Grossman, Time magazine's book critic and a frequent writer on technology, clearly has read his Potter and much more. While this story invariably echoes a whole body of romantic coming-of-age tales, Grossman's American variation is fresh and compelling. Like a jazz musician, he riffs on Potter and Narnia, but makes it his own.

Vladimir Nabokov once observed, "The truth is that great novels are great fairy tales." "The Magicians" is a great fairy tale, written for grown-ups but appealing to our most basic desires for stories to bring about some re-enchantment with the world, where monsters lurk but where a young man with a little magic may prevail.

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lev Grossmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bramhall, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book.

--William Shakespeare, The Tempest
For Lily
First words
Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.
He was either going to hit somebody or start a blog. pg 107
Space was full of angry little particles.  212
He had no interest in TV anymore - it looked like an electronic puppet show to him, an artificial version of an imitation world that meant nothing to him anyway. Real life - or was it a fantasy life? whichever one Brakebills was - that was what mattered, and that was happening somewhere else.
No one would come right out and say it, but the worldwide magical ecology was suffering from a serious imbalance: too many magicians, not enough monsters.
"Never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink," he said. "Though I guess that presupposes that there is a wine I wouldn't drink."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0670020559, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: Mixing the magic of beloved children's fantasy classics (from Narnia and Oz to Harry Potter and Earthsea) with the sex, excess, angst, and anticlimax of life in college and beyond, Lev Grossman's Magicians reimagines modern-day fantasy for grownups. Quentin Coldwater lives in a state of perpetual melancholy, privately obsessed with his childhood books about the enchanted land of Fillory. When he’s admitted to the surreptitious Brakebills Academy for an education in magic, Quentin finds mastering spells is tedious (and love is even more fraught). He also discovers his power has thrilling potential--though it's unclear what he should do with it once he's moved with his new magician cohorts to New York City. Then they discover the magical land of Fillory is real and launch an expedition to use their powers to set things right in the kingdom--which, naturally, turns out to be a much murkier proposition than expected. The Magicians breathes life into a cast of characters you want to know--if the people you want to know are charismatic, brilliant, complex, flawed magicians--and does what Quentin claims books never really manage to do: "get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better. " Or if not better, at least a heck of a lot more interesting. --Mari Malcolm

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:52 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

As a senior in high school Quentin Coldwater became preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. After graduating from college and being admitted into a highly exclusive, secret society of magic in upstate New York, he makes a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin's fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined for his childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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